Thursday, September 9, 2010

Scariest. Field Work. Ever.

"Every bird is common somewhere" is a bon mot I heard early in my birding career. Not this next one; not in long, long time.  I recently dreamed about a species that slipped into extinction literally eons ago; the most famous "terror bird" - Gastornis gigantae.  You may be more familiar with the previous genus name:  Diatryma.  Wikipedia is a good beginning reference for these fascinating creatures:

Gastornis gigantae - one of many "terror birds"

If you were wondering why they're called "terror birds"
(... Is that guy wearing a suit?)

Sadly, the dream was fairly short.  The setting was straight out of Jurassic Park; a towering, impenetrable and foreboding tropical forest. I was part of a team, with at least two other people present.  We were surveying what appeared to be Gastornis nests.  They were two foot-high pedestals of hardened mud (with a lip) about two or so feet in diameter.  Each was fairly stuffed with several very large white eggs;  I'd estimate Ostrich-sized.  Needless to say, I was pretty intensely anxious the entire time.   The terse conversation between team members and I was mostly regarding keeping vigilant.  The dream came to a brisk ending when I spotted a putative parent bird appear a few hundred feet away.  With few words we all made a break for safety.


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